NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Pitt Researcher Uses Hospitalization Data to Determine Causes of Substance Abuse

Dr. Christina Mair, assistant professor of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, discusses how she plans to use hospitalization data from the last 15 years to research rates of abuse, overdose and dependence. The data will help her locate one high-risk region within two hours of Pitt’s campus, where she will conduct further research to get a full view of the problem from both the user and treatment perspective.

Western Pennsylvania is in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic, prompting Pitt Public Health to create a pilot grant project that funds several studies exploring different aspects of the problem.

This post is part of a blog series entitled “The Opioid Epidemic,” a collaboration between UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences highlighting the doctors, researchers and nurses making significant efforts to reduce diversion and misuse of prescription opioids. For more information about the series or resources to help with drug addiction, click here.

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Pitt Researchers Turn to Social Media in Fight Against Opioid Abuse

Social media could revolutionize how to care for those struggling with addiction.

Dr. Zan Dodson, researcher from the University of Pittsburgh Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, discusses how his team is looking at how social media can be used to identify geographical clusters of opioid and heroin abuse and overdose. The data they’re compiling will help create a map of opioid-use clusters, which will be shared with Pittsburgh officials to provide better care in those areas in an effort to prevent overdose-related deaths.

Western Pennsylvania is in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic, prompting the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to create a pilot grant project that funds several studies exploring different aspects of the problem.

This post is part of a blog series entitled “The Opioid Epidemic,” a collaboration between UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences highlighting the doctors, researchers and nurses making significant efforts to reduce diversion and misuse of prescription opioids. For more information about the series or resources to help with drug addiction, click here.   

 

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HPV Vaccination Plan Garners Award from Jewish Healthcare Foundation

Thanks to their extraordinary efforts to increase the rate of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines administered in their office, the team at UPMC St. Margaret Bloomfield-Garfield Family Health Center (FHC) will receive a Special Recognition Award from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation 2016 Fine Awards.

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation has launched an initiative to increase the rate of HPV vaccination in the Pittsburgh region and dispel myths surrounding the vaccine. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. A vaccine is available, but optional, and it requires a series of three shots.

The FHC is receiving a $5,000 award for their “Sensational HPV Vaccination Trial,” a campaign to teach parents, children and adolescents about the importance of the vaccine and to increase the rate of HPV vaccines administered at their practice.

“Our family medicine staff, resident physicians and pharmacists have creatively worked together to give timely HPV vaccinations, immediate, fun notices and rewards and the achievable long-term rewards of health promotion, reduced genital warts and diminished cancer risk,” said Dr. Ann McGaffey, medical director of the FHC. “Our approach helps parents and youth understand the safety, efficacy, optimal time to vaccinate, and cancer reduction promise of the HPV vaccination series.”

Because the vaccine is optional, many patients don’t bother, or fail to receive, all three vaccine shots. Based on a focus group, only 33 percent of patients reported receiving or discussing the vaccine with parents or doctors. A couple of the ways FHC staff are reversing this trend include staff members wearing T-shirts encouraging vaccinations on HPV Fridays, and waiting room signage that features a poster contest called “Guarding Your Health with HPV Vaccine.” Additionally, Nicole Payette, Pharm.D., discovered that record reviews and text message reminders about when the next shot is due helped ensure adolescents not only received the vaccine, but completed the full sequence of shots.

Furthermore, they found that sensory rewards would help motivate patients to complete the vaccine sequence. Rewards such as ringing a gong, chewing gum, LED-bling rings, or playing with putty are offered to all HPV vaccine recipients. Occasionally, Trish Klatt, Pharm.D., brings in her therapy and HPV prevention dog, Max, to play with children receiving the vaccine.

The efforts at the FHC have helped more teens in the Pittsburgh area receive the vaccine. Not only have they seen an increase in how many patients receive the vaccine, they also surpassed their vaccination rate goal.

Dr. McGaffey and her team will be presented with the $5,000 award on Aug. 29 at the Centre City Tower.

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UPMC Shadyside Gardens Add Beauty to Hospital Grounds

DSCN0518The grounds at UPMC Shadyside are no ordinary hospital grounds. Maintained by a crew of just four groundskeepers, the vegetable and Japanese gardens improve not only the hospital landscape, but also the lives of those in the community.

With over 40 varieties of flowers, herbs and vegetables, the gardens outside UPMC Shadyside’s West Wing combine both practicality and beauty. The garden grows everything from tomatoes to cilantro, and no chemicals or preservatives are used.DSCN0520

“Five years ago, there wasn’t much out here on this patio, but now it’s grown into something beautiful,” said Robbie Kiefer, grounds foreman at Shadyside. “This wouldn’t be possible without the support of Pat Hogan, director of maintenance, due to his willingness to allow us the opportunity to develop this project.”

The produce grown is sent to the hospital’s cafeteria, the Hillman Cancer Center Café, as well as the catering staff. The availability of fresh, preservative-free food is especially beneficial to the patients at the UPMC CancerCenter, who need to focus on healthy eating.

“It’s great to have freshly grown and sourced produce provided on-site for us,” said Joshua Cope, Food Services manager. “Robbie and her team do an amazing job of presenting us with top-notch herbs and garden-fresh vegetables to incorporate into our daily production. There’s also a sense of UPMC community pride, knowing that we can offer our patients, their families and fellow employees these items in their daily meals.”

Hospital staff also love having access to fresh vegetables, which are free and available for them to try.

“It’s so nice to come out here,” said Shelley Watters, DNP, RN, director of professional development at UPMC Shadyside. “I put lettuce from this garden on my sandwiches, and I cook with many of the herbs.”

In the future, hospital staff hope to get the entire Shadyside community involved in the garden.

“We want to get community groups and kids’ clubs involved so they learn more about gardening and organic eating,” said Ms. Kiefer. “We want this garden to be a learning experience for the community.”

DSCN0561UPMC Shadyside’s grounds also feature a tranquil Japanese flower garden, which is recognized as a Pittsburgh Horticultural Society Garden of Distinction.

The area has benches and a small walking path so hospital personnel can enjoy the garden’s beauty. It’s not uncommon to see patients, families and doctors relaxing in the gardens in the spring and summer.

The peaceful environment promotes meditation: patients and families can relax or contemplate important medical decisions, while doctors can destress from their work. The fresh air also helps doctors refresh.

“You will be much better for your patients if you spend even just five minutes meditating out here,” said Ms. Watters. “One of the best parts of my job is seeing people’s faces light up when they see how beautiful these gardens are.”

 

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Human Engineering Research Laboratory Hosts Open House

strongarmThis year has been a good one for the Human Engineering Research Laboratory (HERL) as they celebrated a year of quality research at their July 29th open house event.

HERL, a joint project between the University of Pittsburgh and the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, strives to continuously improve the lives of people with disabilities through advances in engineering, clinical research and medical rehabilitation.

At the open house, researchers showcased their work through interactive demonstrations and tours of the research facilities. Some of the innovations featured included:

One group who benefits from the research at HERL are disabled veterans. The devices designed at HERL allow disabled veterans to get back to doing the things they enjoyed most before their injury.

“The veterans that are using the equipment and benefiting from these innovations can achieve a level of independence they couldn’t have before,” said Nancy Augustine, a project manager at HERL.

HERL collaborates with many different veteran and military organizations, such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and U.S. Department of Defense to exchange information on the latest research and needs of wounded soldiers.

“Veterans have been able to have their lives enriched and improved,” said Karin McGraw, director of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. “They can finally play with their children again, and you can’t put a price tag on that.”

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